Интервью с Bly о подготовке к WCS Spring, буднях старкрфтера и Нидусах
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In a couple of days, the best non-Korean StarCraft 2 players in the world will gather for 2019 WCS Spring in Kiev.
We’ve talked to Aleksandr "Bly" Svysiuk from Windigo Gaming — one of, if not the best StarCraft 2 player from the CIS region. He shared a lot about the upcoming event preparations, everyday life of a progamer and, of course, Nydus Worm.
You live in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, but it wasn’t always so. How and why did you move?
I was born in Zhytomyr (86 miles away from Kiev – WePlay!), my parents are still there. My progamer career started in Zhytomyr and I lived there for a long while. I moved less than three years ago with my future wife who was relocating due to a career opportunity. We both realised that we should move. A year later we got married.
So the relocation wasn’t connected with esports, it happened because of your personal circumstances. But now it’s easier for you to travel to international tournaments, right? What with the biggest airport in the country being near your place of residence.
Yep, I live close to the airport, and it makes a big difference. When your flight to Montreal with layovers takes up 20 hours, additional travel time really adds up.
I feel genuinely sorry for some other players regarding this. For instance, I recently visited a LAN in another Ukrainian city and DIMAGA was travelling there for almost 24 hours. And that’s through Ukraine alone.
(The photo was made during the LAN Bly talks about.)
Can you share a funny story that involves travelling and progamers? First, that comes to your mind.
The first thing that comes to my mind is when Zanster (a Swedish Zerg player, aka Eye-Patch Zerg) was travelling to Katowice. I heard that he called one of the players and said, “Hey, where are you, I’m here.” And the following dialogue was something like this:
— We’re at the airport.
— Where exactly?
— Terminal B.
— There’s no such terminal.
And that’s when they learned that instead of Katowice he came to Warsaw.
I am a very responsible traveller and always have tons of documents just to be safe; printed map of the hotel location in case if something happens with my phone; three power banks and everything else imaginable.
I don’t want to deal with anything that can be prevented.
It's a long walk back to Ukraine :).
This month Kiev hosts WCS Spring and you won’t need to travel. Do you feel that you have an advantage over other players who will need to cope with travelling and jet lag?
You bet I do. When I learned that there would be two WCS Circuit events in Kiev this year, I felt warmth in my chest because travelling always spawns complications. There are also things that I’ll be missing, of course — like having a week of vacation in Spain after DreamHack Valencia. You never miss an opportunity to do your job and stay at the seaside afterwards.
It’s not an obvious advantage. Nice to think that besides the jet lag you also get such bonuses.
Valencia is decent. But when I had to go to Austin (Texas, USA), the jet lag was enormous. This year, there will be a WCS event in Montreal (Canada), it’s going to be hard.
But this month, everybody will be jet lagged but me. I’ll just need to take a 20-minute taxi ride, and I’m at the venue. I will try to show a good result.
So at the next big tournament, you will be sort of a host. You know every important player at this event. Do you have unofficial duties as a person who lives here? For example, do you get to take everyone to launch during the first day?
Yeah, I guess so. During WESG we had a conversation about food. I told the other players how great Ukrainian cuisine is.
Back then, Snute said he would be looking for Korean Barbecue. That set me on fire. I thought, “man, you have to try the local food.”
Frankly speaking, I have a couple of places in mind where I want to take the fellow StarCraft 2 players to, let them taste what is here.
Everyone knows about the mysterious x-factor of playing on your own turf. The local players always have deep runs. What do you think about this phenomenon and what do you think causes it? Does it come from the support of the local fans or the lack of jet lag?
I’d say it’s 30%/70%.
30% — comes from the lack of jet lag while everyone else had to fly there.
70% — comes from the crowd support. However you tell yourself you can get past that, and not think about what is happening in the venue, you always hear and feel it. I can’t explain it exactly, but think of it as some sort of energy — you feel that much is expected from you and you need to beat everyone. You can’t allow yourself upset everyone.
The progamers approach games with one of the two following mindsets— “I don’t want to lose” and “I want to win.” There are people who don’t have any mindset at all, but that’s a rare thing. It’s quite hard to have the “I want to win” mindset — you need to be confident, know that you won’t make mistakes and that the opponent can’t exploit your game style.
Relatively low amount of players can fairly tell themselves, “I want to win, I can win, I will win.” Most of them can only manage, “gosh, don’t wanna lose” — this kind of mindset brings out fear. And when you are hyped up by the crowd, the “I don’t want to lose” mindset gets enhanced into “I want to win” because you don’t want to fall short of the expectations and fail the supporters. I find this mechanism really important.
How does it all impact your opponent? For example, you're playing vs Snute, and hearing the crowd chanting his name through the white noise. Does it intimidate you?
It depends on the person. When I personally hear it, I say to myself, “I’m gonna wipe the floor with this player and they will stop chanting.”
So it increases your desire to win?
Yes, and I try not to get provoked.
What happens when you beat the crowd favorite and celebrate the victory in front of the same audience? What do you feel at that time?
Goosebumps. You feel that you breath more freely. You realize that you did it, and it feels very good.
What kind of support from the fans do you enjoy the most? What is the best encouragement for you?
I accept any kind of support. Twitch chat messages, Twitter messages, hell, flowers left by my door make me feel good as well. It was very nice when during WESG Ukraine I was given a Kerrigan poster with my face on it. It was great and I enjoyed it soooooooo much.
I take both critique and praise seriously. I’m happy about the positive comments, and unhappy about the negative comments. I try very hard and I hope to get more of the positive comments.
The international StarCraft 2 casters consider you a cheesy player. Each time you play, they start discussing, what cheese you are going for and get genuinely surprised when you go macro. What do you think about that attitude?
For me, the main thing is that they know I can beat just about anyone. My strategies often depend on my mood, but, even during the big tournaments, I occasionally hear the devil whispering “go Nydus” in my ear.
When you hear the devil, you are inclined to listen to him?
Yes, and that’s mainly because I am still enjoying the game. Though I’ve played a huge amount of matches, I’m still enjoying outthinking the opponents. If I outplay a strong player analytically — by showing a strategy and changing it up in the next game by exploiting the scouting patterns — I get thrilled.
You get a picture in your head where you put all the puzzle pieces together, and it makes the victory that much sweeter, right?
Of course, I also enjoy winning macro-games. But it involves fewer mind games. You just build more stuff and micro better. I prefer thinking, predicting, scouting, deceiving and confusing the opponent.
So, you don’t just bust out the strategies you’ve learned recently. If you cheese, it’s because you think the opponent won’t be ready for this particular proxy hatch because of his particular game-style and scouting patterns?
Correct.I play that way very often. All the new build orders are created during real games when I play smaller tournaments vs weaker opponents. Mostly, to animate the game. It gets boring to play the same stuff all the time, so I improvise on the go. I see this as one of my characteristic features as a player. I’m good at improvising.
How does the result of your improvisation get to a match vs dangerous opponents?
I see that something works. I think about the mistakes of my opponent and what would happen if he played better. I evaluate my chances against a better player.
And I come to the conclusion that even if he didn’t make this mistake and that decision, I would still probably come out on top. At this point, I’m ready to try this build against a stronger opponent. I can also see someone else playing a new strategy, find the faults, analyze it, do some optimization and get a working strategy.
I personally draw many parallel lines between you and Gumiho from the Korean Circuit. Just like you, he often plays his own game, leaving a footnote in the current meta, and he also has one characteristic feature.
On a good day, Gumiho can beat just about anyone in the world, be it INnoVation, soO, Serral or Neeb. But he can also drop out in an early stage of a tournament playing against someone not as strong as himself. Both you and Gumiho can be both unstoppable and occasionally have not the best results.
Can you explain this phenomenon? It’s often called instability, but I find this term too limited.
Yes, the term doesn’t explain it right.
I can’t speak for Gumiho. But on my own account, I attribute it to the fact that I play a lot and as much as I would try to diversify the game, it’s the same StarCraft 2 day after day after day.
Basically, you do the same thing over and over again. And, when you do that, the brain gets bored. And the more you try, the worse you start playing. And you can’t always condition yourself to do well. For instance, I can play good for a month, and then for a week it gets tough, and I lose to just about anyone because my brain is on vacation.
Am I right in saying, that occasionally you are both tired and lack motivation?
The thing is, you can get all the motivation in the world, but any job requires downtime. And, as a StarCraft 2 player, you need to play literally every day. At least, that’s how it works for me – I am such a player who needs to play every day.
If I haven’t played for two days straight, I get the feeling that my hands grow from the area under the small of my back.
Recently there was a period when I would stumble upon 5 supply-blocks before 6ths minute of the game. I remember playing at a tournament and my left hand just suddenly went numb for 30 seconds, for real. I was all-ining a Terran off 2 bases and noticed that I have 1.5k minerals. I simply wasn’t producing anything.
Was it boring to play? No. I wanted to win, I had the motivation, but I was overwhelmed by the tiredness.
Motivation, of course, can make miracles, but there are other factors at play. At such moments, you understand that you’re playing like a vegetable. It’s the necessary downtime, triggered by the brain. When you’ve played 50 hours this week, and it's Saturday, you get the feeling that something is wrong. You want to take some time off. Others just stop playing at such periods, but I do many tournaments and could be competing on Sunday after the 50-hour week.
I don’t think that I can allow myself to miss a tournament. If it’s not small, I can make some money, and since it’s my job, I’m not allowed to miss opportunities. Some people disagree with this attitude, but that’s how I operate.
Do people tell you that you are wrong?
Yep, some do. But, if I skip a day or two without practising, my mechanics drop.
Speaking of mechanics. As a Zerg, If you don’t play for a day or two, you lose the rhythm and stop feeling when it’s time to inject larvae and spread the creep. If you’ve played 20 games today and someone says “inject” within your earshot, you can wait out the necessary time and say “inject” yourself at the perfect moment to cast it. That comes from your inner timer.
How is your WCS preparation going?
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been practising extra hard. I’ve just come from my team house in another city, where I played on a LAN. I practice through custom games with other progamers and ladder.
I try to practice vs strong opponents who know my race inside and out and can punish my mistakes. When they do it, I can see what needs fixing in my play. I also play ladder to practice some of my own builds with Nidus Worm.
How are your match-ups doing? Do you have strong or weak sides?
I have 60% win rate on the barcode against all races. The matchups are pretty even because I practice against all races.
Outside South Korea, and maybe inside as well, you are the biggest expert in the Nydus Worm play. Let’s discuss the current state of Nydus in terms of balance. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the last year, what do you think about its new state?
I'm inclined to agree that the first change didn’t make it balanced. Blizzard gave it 5 armor to incentivize players to use it more. I was pretty much the only progamer using Nydus at the time.
When it gained 5 points of armor, Nydus became broken, I won a lot of money at that time, beating the Koreans left, right and center. When they set it to 3 armor, the worm became much weaker as 2 Marines and 10 SCVs could stop it during the spawn time.
At this point, Nydus is more of a distraction strategy. The enemy sees it and can’t even imagine that I have a Spire and +1 Roaches. If the opponent skips a bit, I will stick the worm in the only place at his base he isn’t seeing, or will simply use a Ling run by to split his attention. The strategy has shifted from “you shall not defend” to “I’ve outwitted you.”
Do you think Nydus is at the right spot in terms of balance?
4 points in armor would be too good for ZvZ — the lings wouldn’t be able to defend it and the matchup would get reduced to 2 base vs 2 base, so I agree with the current state.
I think, Blizzard left Nydus in the best possible spot. It’s not OP but a potent tool in the strong hands.
Do you see Nydus as an all-in tool exclusively?
In 90% of the cases, it’s an all-in tool, but you can find many uses for it in late-game as well. The best thing about Nydus in the late game is that Overlords and Overseers don’t take up the limit, neither does the worm. That means you can distract the opponent with a Nydus threat and make him commit with APM and army.
Even if it’s a “fake” Nydus, the enemy has to react, or the game can be lost. Part of the army goes back to deal with the worm and the things that come out of it. That’s a perfect opportunity to strike with the main army. You can also fake an assault and retreat with Fungal Growth, preparing to storm the main base. There are many other ways to exploit Nydus, and they are attractive since you need to spend only 50-50 per each worm. It’s an excellent late-game tool.
What is your take on the current StarCraft 2 balance in general? How far is the game from the sweet spot StarCraft: Brood War, where players can balance the game by themselves by shifting the meta?
We are pretty close to good balance, but, I think, we still need some changes. You’ve mentioned yourself that the meta is changing and we need someone to manage it.
For now, there is a problem in TvP in, mainly in Charge. Don’t get me started on the bug which gives Oracles an extra attack. At first, they fix it and then they are like, “Oops, the Protoss players are angry, let's revert the change because there’s too much negative feedback.” Strictly speaking, it’s a code bug.
That’s not a new thing. The Brood War balance is based on bugs. You don’t think that the same approach is acceptable in StarCraft 2? We shouldn’t be able to exploit the things that don’t work as intended?
It’s easier to balance StarCraft 2 because we’re not dealing with the bugs that were there for 20 years. It’s not like someone will come out and say, “Goddammit, I’ve been practicing this all my life, and now you take it away?” That’s why I think the Oracle beam needs a fix. They did find a way to fix the Chrono Boost into Nexus. 99% of players never even knew that when you spend a boost into Nexus, you get to gain the energy quicker as well.
I personally never knew about this.
That thing got fixed like 10 years after the game went out in Beta.
The biggest problem today is Charge-Zealots. The 8 points of pure damage is an issue. We’ll see how they balance this.
You mentioned it was a problem for TvP, does it make ZvP troublesome as well?
It’s mostly TvP, but when they nerf the issue, PvZ will change as well. At last, the A-clickers won’t be able to just A-click!
I often see Protoss playing vs a Terrans by just sending their Zealot-Stalkers ahead. They don’t even split the Zealots because “I hope it hits with friendly fire!”
And what’s your take on PvZ?
There are many issues and, of course, I wish the PvZ meta were different. Classic and some other Protoss players are introducing a shift. We begin to see Adepts with Resonating Glaives, and it’s an interesting build order. Finally, the Charge-Zealots and Archons with Immortals supported by Warp Prism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I can see why it’s so popular, but the strategy needs to change. Being able to F2 into A-click shouldn’t be a relevant factor.
(Scarlett to the left, Bly to the right)
Let’s tone it down a notch and discuss some lighter topics at the end of the interview. Can you name your top 3 favorite international StarCraft 2 casters?
MrBitter (wish he were back), TotalBiscuit (RiP), and RotterdaM.
Do you play vs RotterdaM&rsquo a lot? Maybe during various online qualifiers?
It happens. Not during the qualifiers, but it happens on the ladder when I’m queuing for 3 minutes. He plays pretty well nowadays. He’s Zealot-Archons aren’t that bad, considering he makes the switch after glaived Adepts, double Stargate and Dark Shrine. He has his own understanding of the game, and it’s worth consideration.
When we played last time, it was tough. I tried to push him early, but it wasn’t easy, and that says something.
And my last question: Do you think, we will ever see shirtless Rotti someday?
I just don’t believe in it, unless he finds inspiration to go to the gym like he used to.
Anything to say for your fans who will root for you at WCS?
Thank you for your support and kind words. I read all the comments I lay my eyes on. I get really inspired when I see the messages in the chat of Alex007.
The comments help me stay motivated, and it can be a very hard thing to do when you spend enormous amounts of hours practising. When you come to a certain point and start plateauing, it takes much effort and motivation to overcome the current limitations. The moment I receive something like “Man, that was a great game” on my BattleNet account, I get energized to try harder. Thank you very much for believing in me, sometimes even harder than I believe in myself. My gratitude is immense.
Thank you very much, Bly! Hope to see you owning the competition at 2019 WCS Spring!
Where to find Bly